Big Tex is overlooking the State Fair of Texas, which means one thing, in addition to delicious corny dogs and carnival barkers, its time for the annual Red River bash between Texas and Oklahoma.
Is this the year the Longhorns finally get the Sooner monkey off their back, or will OU continue to dominate? Will Texas two athletic quarterbacks, Chance Mock and Vincent Young give the Horns a chance at ending a three-game winning streak, or will the Sooner smash-mouth style of play stop Texas in its tracks for the fourth straight year? The answers to those questions follow, but before we get to that huge game and a number of other intriguing contests this weekend, lets see where we stand at this point in the season. A 7-2 week brought the season record to 34-14, which puts us over the magical 70 percent mark for the season.
Now, onto the games.
Aldine vs. MacArthur: These two long-time rivals hook up in a key District
21-5A game. Aldine opened league play with a 31-24 win over Nimitz two weeks ago, while MacArthur dropped a hard-fought decision to Memorial, 28-16. Look for Aldine to continue perking on offense as it gets ready for its Week 10 showdown with Eisenhower. My pick, Aldine 33, MacArthur 24
Eisenhower vs. Memorial: This one matches two teams with playoff aspirations. Memorial may not be fancy, but they get the job done. They like to run right at teams, which is fine with Richard Carsons team considering it has one of the better defenses in the area. The Eagles blasted Northbrook 66-0 in their 21-5A opener two weeks ago. Three scores came on the defensive side of the football. The sledding will be a bit more difficult this weekend, but look for Eisenhowers athleticism to be the difference maker in this one. My pick, Eisenhower 21, Memorial 17
Nimitz vs. Spring Woods: The Cougars stubbed their toes in their 21-5A opener against Aldine, but look for them to bounce back in a big way against Spring Woods. Look for Nimitz to run the ball early and often as they wear down an out manned Spring Woods team. My pick, Nimitz 38, Spring Woods 12
Now lets take a look at four key college games on tap this weekend.
Ohio State at Wisconsin: The defending national champions take to the road for the first time this season (talk about home field advantage!) when they venture to Madison to take on a talented Badger team. This game could very well bring an end to the Buckeyes 19-game winning streak. The Badgers havea strong running game, which can eat up the clock and keep the ball out of Ohio States hands. The Buckeyes are not the dominant defensive team they were a year ago and the offense his sputtered at times. Look for Wisconsinto bring an end to the Buckeyes year-and-a-half run at the top. My pick,Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 24
Florida at LSU: In case you havent been paying attention, the LSU Tigers are a very good football team. Head coach Nick Saban has made the Tigers a top-5 program thats loaded with talent on both sides of the football. Look for a big night in Baton Rouge from the Bengal Tigers this weekend when the much-despised Florida Gators come calling. LSU has speed to burn on defense, so look for them to bring a lot of pressure on Florida freshman quarterback C.J. Leak. Leak is a talent, but this will be his first experience under the lights in Tiger country and it will more than likely turn out to be a learning experience for the young man. Offensively, the Tigers will unleash standout wide receiver Michael Clayton against a young and inexperienced Florida defense. My pick, LSU 33, Florida 16
Georgia at Tennessee: A huge game in the SECs East Division. Georgia enters with one loss and can ill afford a second if it hopes to land a spot in the SEC title game in December. Tennessee enters undefeated after its 23-20 overtime win against a game South Carolina team two weeks ago. The Vols must contain Georgia quarterback David Greene, one of the to passers in the country. Greenes counterpart, Casey Clausen, will need to be on his game against a ball hawking Bulldog defense. The key to a Tennessee win will be its ability to run successfully and with Cedric Houston in tow, it says here the Vols are able to move on the ground. My pick, Tennessee 26,Georgia 23
Miami at Florida State: Another biggie this weekend as these two heated rivals battle for bragging rights in the state of Florida. A year ago, Miami over came a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit and pulled out a 28-27 win against a young Florida State team. This year, the Seminoles are a year wiser and out for revenge. Look for the Noles to give the Hurricanes a steady dose of burly tailback Gregg Jones. Miami is good, but their defense can be run on and if FSU is able to establish its running game, quarterback Chris Rix should then have the time to use play-action passes for some nice gains down field. Miami will counter with tailback Frank Gore and quarterback Brock Berlin, two excellent players at their respective positions, but this time around, its the Seminoles who will make the plays late to pull out the win. My pick, Florida State 34, Miami 33
Texas vs. Oklahoma: Now to the game of the week in these parts. For the last three years, the Sooners have owned the Longhorns in this bitter rivalry. They blasted them once (63-14 in 2000), won a tight defensive struggle (14-3 in 2001) and outscored them (35-24 in 2002) during that span. So what will it be this year? One thing is for sure, Texas is a better football team with Mock and Young under center. Both can run out of trouble and make plays with their legs, something Chris Simms was never able to do. Even though Oklahoma has perhaps the best defense in the nation, mobile quarterbacks are a problem for any defense, even one as solid as OUs. But the key to Texas ending this OU tailspin will be its ability to line up and go man-to-man against a physical Sooner team. That means tailback Cedric Benson must have a big game and prove he can take a lick and keep on ticking. Mack Brown and his staff know there is little room for error in this one. If they hope to keep their BCS dreams alive, Texas has to win its remaining games. The Sooners, on the other hand, will enter the game ranked No. 1 in the nation and they too have national title dreams dancing about in their heads. If the Texas defense can get to OU quarterback Jason White early, that might rattle his confidence and force him to commit a turnover or two. That would be huge. I think this is a different Texas team. The loss to Arkansas seems to have toughened them up, which should suit them well this Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, plus I want my nephew Will to witness a Texas win over OU before he departs Austin. My pick, Texas 23, Oklahoma 21
Now lets take a look at what the NFL has to offer this weekend.
Pittsburgh at Denver: Expect the thin air in Denver to be filled with passes this Sunday as Tommy Maddox and Jake Plummer go at it in Invesco Field on Sunday. Both teams have two of the better passing attacks in the NFL, but Denver should have the advantage because they also run the football well, that is is Clinton Portis is healthy. Denver will be coming off a physical and emotional game against Kansas City, but they should be up for a Steelers team that has yet to play a complete game this season. My pick, Denver 24, Pittsburgh 16
Carolina at Indianapolis: This game pits two of the leagues most improved teams from a year ago, and both could enter this game undefeated. The Panthers have been getting it done with a bruising running game led by Stephen Davis and an opportunistic and hard-hitting defense. The Colts have been led by quarterback Peyton Manning who turned in a spectacular performance two weeks ago on Sunday night when he blistered the Saints for six touchdown passes in a 55-21 route. Tony Dungy has also built a stout defense, which means the Colts are solid on both sides of the football.
This should be a good one to watch. Look for Manning to be the difference maker in this one as the Colts continue to roll along. My pick, Indianapolis 24, Carolina 13
Houston at Tennessee: The Texans pay a visit to their old buddy Bud Adams and his team this Sunday looking for win No. 3 on the season. Dom Capers showed a lot of guts two weeks ago when he called for a quarterback sneak with two seconds left. The gamble worked and the Texans should have gained a lot of confidence in their young quarterback and coach because of that play. But this week, it might be wise not to take too many chances against a Tennessee team that plays well on both sides of the football. It seems the more Steve McNair is injured, the better he plays. What a competitor. If the Titans get their running game going, watch out for this bunch. The Texans might be in for a long day in Nashville as the Titans put it to the team that inhabits their former abode. My pick, Tennessee 31, Houston 20
Philadelphia at Dallas: For those of you who dont think a coach makes much of a difference in the NFL, just take a look at the Cowboys. Bill Parcells has turned this team around a lot quicker than even the most myopic Dallas fan had hoped for, but theres still plenty of work to be done and the Tuna would be the first to tell you that. This week will be a good measuring stick for where this team really is. Although the Eagles stumbled out of the gate losing their first two games, this is still a very talented and tough football team. They proved that two weeks ago in their 22-13 win at Buffalo. Philly has owned the Cowboys the last few years with few of the games being the least bit competitive. Now that Parcells is at the helm,
Dallas will play hard every week. The key will be how will quarterback Quincy Carter continues to play. Hes still prone to make a mistake at an inopportune time. The Eagles are just the type of defense that could rattle Carter into a mistake or two that will have Parcells pulling out his hair. My pick, Philadelphia 23, Dallas